The intersection of user experience and higher education

Posted on October 31, 2016

The intersection of user experience and higher education

A focus on user experience (UX) within higher education is relatively new, and is increasingly a vital area of focus for colleges and universities, and the software companies that serve them. Where online interactions were once one-sided, users now have expectations that the information they seek is not only related, but specifically relevant and contextual to them. This demand for relevant, quality content and user expectations regarding technology has brought UX to the forefront of our focus at Nelnet Business Solutions, and rightfully so.

Every interaction with your college or university, whether through your website or third-party vendor application needs to fit seamlessly within the flow of a user’s life. We must meet users where they are, which means determining when, where, and how they utilize technology and designing to help them achieve their goals. Your team and the vendors you choose to partner with should add, not detract, from the users’ online experiences, which inevitably lead to positive interactions and a good feeling associated with your institution’s brand. Choosing partners that understand the importance of these interactions will help you keep pace in a rapidly changing technology landscape.

Mobile Matters

One of the most prominent ways  to meet users where they are is to have an optimized mobile experience. We must cater to “mobile moments” and design solutions that serve these moments immediately and within context. We want to be able to present information anytime and anywhere they need or want it. At Nelnet Business Solutions, our UX team has been using these mobile moments to inform and influence the design of every user’s consumer experience. For example, if a requirement is to show student balance information, our challenge is to provide the student access to this information in the simplest fashion, without compromising security.

Balancing Security and Usability

As your payment technology partner, Nelnet Business Solutions is dedicated to balancing the needs of security and usability. These two pillars are not opposites like some believe. Rather, usability is about making a system or operation simple to understand and interact with. Our goal is always to design for the end user experience of the product, making it smooth and approachable while providing the best security.

From Business To User: Shifting the Design Focus

Unlike most organizations, which are more focused on their business goals and objectives, Nelnet Business Solutions is passionate about human-centric design. We are challenging ourselves to find different ways to serve our customers. Keeping the user at the center and designing products around them allows us to be more empathic to user needs. This approach allows us to have the vision and direction of the product driven by users. It’s for the user and by the user.

A Holistic Approach to UX

In the end, UX is not just about a product or software. It’s more holistic than that. Designing the user experience of a product requires a disciplined approach, starting with understanding users’ mental model or expectations and then delivering the value they desire. Every touchpoint that a consumer has with your brand builds to who you are as an institution. This includes, but is not limited to, customer service, product user interfaces, and advertising. At each point, it is key to be mindful of what kind of brand is being built, and use that as a guiding beacon. User experience is not simply contained within a few app pages. It needs to go beyond that. That’s why choosing partners who are committed to understanding and helping users achieve their goals in ways that support and delight them is so important.

Arvind Jagannathan
Director of Digital Experience
Nelnet Business Solutions

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